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Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West [Paperback]

By Lamin Sanneh (Author)
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Item description for Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West by Lamin Sanneh...

Lamin Sanneh presents a stimulating new outlook on faith and culture by exploring Christianity's vibrant expression and explosive growth in the non-Western world.

Publishers Description
Many historians of religion now recognize that Christianity is a global faith whose most vibrant expression and growth are found today in the non-Western world. But no one explores this reality and its implications for modern life with the depth of learning and personal insight of Lamin Sanneh. This book is unique in the literature of world Christianity, not least for its novel structure. Sanneh's engaging narrative takes the form of a self-interview in which he asks questions about the cross-cultural expansion of Christianity and provides insightful answers and meaningful predictions about the future. This technique also allows Sanneh to track developments in world Christianity even while giving attention to the responses and involvement of indigenous peoples around the world. Sanneh's own background and lifelong involvement with non-Western cultures bring a richness of perspective not found in any other book on world Christianity. For example, Sanneh highlights what is distinctive about Christianity as a world religion, and he offers a timely comparison of Christianity with Islam's own missionary tradition. The book also gives pride of place to the recipients of the Christian message rather than to the missionaries themselves. Indeed, Sanneh argues here that the gospel is not owned by the West and that the future of the tradition lies in its "world" character. Literate, relevant, and highly original, Whose Religion Is Christianity? presents a stimulating new outlook on faith and culture that will interest a wide range of readers.

Awards and Recognitions
Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West by Lamin Sanneh has received the following awards and recognitions -
  • Christianity Today Book Award - 2004 Award of Merit - Christianity & Culture category

Citations And Professional Reviews
Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West by Lamin Sanneh has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christianity Today - 10/01/2003 page 111

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   128
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.4" Width: 5.28" Height: 0.41"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 9, 2003
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802821642  
ISBN13  9780802821645  

Availability  0 units.

More About Lamin Sanneh

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Lamin Sanneh, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Gambia and the scion of an ancient African royal house, was educated on four continents. He is Professor of History and World Christianity at Yale University, and chair of its Council on African Studies. His books include Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West and The Changing Face of Christianity: Africa, the West, and the World (coedited with Joel A. Carpenter).

Lamin Sanneh currently resides in Hamden, in the state of Connecticut. Lamin Sanneh has an academic affiliation as follows - Professor of History, Yale University and Professor of Missions and Wo.

Lamin Sanneh has published or released items in the following series...
  1. American Society of Missiology
  2. Global Theological Voices

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Religion

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Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West?

A Good Overview with One Major Flaw  Apr 11, 2008
Lamin Sanneh has provided a very rich dialogue about the nature of World Christianity as we progress through the 21st century in "Whose Religion is Christianity?". In a very detailed but readable manner, Sanneh goes through the various factors that have pushed Christianity out of the West and allowed it to thrive in the South and East. This book focuses mostly on the growth of Christianity in Africa, but it also briefly mentions what is occurring in China as well. It is a quick read, but it is full of useful information from statistics to sociological analysis. His ideas about translation and destigmatization are also great steps in the right direction for further mission not only in the South but also for the West, learning what it means to translate the gospel in other culture but also how the Gospel is both a yes and no to our cultures.

The one major flaw in this book is the emphasis on human agency in mission. Though I'm sure Sanneh would not endorse this view of mission, his description of missionary activity focuses solely on human action to the neglect of God who is both the initiator and sustainer of mission. Still, this is a solid treatment of an issue that the church in the West will have to grapple with as time goes on.
New Models of Faith and Community  Oct 18, 2007
We are in a time of extraordinary growth in Christianity fueled primarily, as Sanneh writes, by "several factors: the end of colonial rule; the effect of mother tongue development and Bible translation; indigenous cultural renewal and local agency; and the theological stimulation of the Christian adoption of the African names of God." (41-42) Sanneh provides new perspective in the study of the expansion of Christianity, which complements my prior reading of Latourette's seven volumes on the Expansion of Christianity. Sanneh suggests the missionary should give "priority to indigenous response and local appropriation over against missionary transmission and direction." In other words, the notion that the gospel has been "from the West to the Rest" has been a false view of the expansion of Christianity. Sanneh, a Gambian born former-Muslim adherent, provides a reversed perspective highlighting the "indigenous discovery of Christianity rather than the Christian discovery of indigenous societies." (10)

What was Sanneh's central purposes in writing this book?
It appears that Sanneh's purpose was to assist the Post-Christian Western Church to make "live contact" with Post-Western Christianity. To accomplish this, Sanneh explains this shift of the Church to the Majority world outside the West, including the

One of Sanneh's key points is that "local renewal takes place without global orchestration." Sanneh makes a distinction between "world" and "global" as they relate to Christianity on the grounds that "world Christianity has nothing of the global structures of power and economics that global Christianity presumes." (78) Because new communities have embraced Christianity, mostly without Western orchestration, Sanneh calls for a "fresh understanding of the gospel in world history." (14) That fresh understanding should be a simple as if a child were in our midst as we explained it; after all, that is the model Jesus gave as he explained the kingdom of God. Sanneh reminds us, "Jesus measured spiritual deafness, not literacy."

The Western Christian world is caught in what Sanneh calls a "Western debilitating guilt complex." While much of the Western Christian world predicted a decline in Christian numbers, Christian expansion continued to gather momentum in Asia and Africa. John R. Mott told the delegates of the ecumenical conference at Edinburgh 1910 "to expect Africa to be taken over by Islam." However, Sanneh offers hope: "A post-Christian West is not so far gone that it cannot make live contact with a post-Western Christianity." (80) "The West should get over its Christendom guilt complex about Christianity as colonialism by accepting that Christianity has survived its European political habits and is thriving today in its post-Western phase among non-Western populations, sometimes because of, and in spite of, Western missionaries." (74)

The Western worldview may need adjustment in order for such contact and revitalization of the Church in the West to take place. "In spite of its impregnable roots in secular autonomy, individualism will likely be modified by the communicative realities of cross-cultural encounter." (7)
There is a fresh theological advantage to societies where the recent large-scale conversion followed the adoption of indigenous names of God. These names of God are basic to the structure of traditional societies, forming and regulating their cultures. "It's therefore hard to think of viable social systems without the name of God, but easy to envision societies that have become vulnerable because they lost the name or the sense of the transcendent. (Maybe there is a lesson for a post-Christian West here.)" (31)

My case study paper has been informed greatly by Sanneh's perspective of indigenous theological advantage coupled with the growing new reality of a global Church, which celebrates difference while experiencing a greater unity in the Body of Christ globally. Sanneh writes, "The world is becoming one, not from the synthesis of all cultures into one, or from the discovery of a common genetic pool, but from the accelerating pressure to acknowledge and celebrate difference when that is no longer remote. That is the deep movement of the spirit in our time."

Conversion, it should be easily agreed, is "the turning of ourselves to God, and that means all of ourselves without leaving anything behind or outside." (43) I recall a meeting in India where a well-known Sri Lankan Christian leader in dialogue was asking the urgent question of conversion at the gathering. Conversion is confusion in India, besides being illegal. My response to the "dialogue" was to say conversion is like adoption, being taken into another family. This Sri Lankan leader, whose name I withhold, stopped the dialogue and began to preach in a way that exhibited a stark disagreement with the only white guy in the crowd, me. Because conversion is such a volatile subject, especially in India, I appreciate the clarity and simplicity with which Sanneh approaches the subject.

This book challenges us to look for new models of faith and community. Sanneh describes how, in the current expansion of World Christianity, "fishing nets in the form of religious vocations, formation, and apostolic structures will be needed to avert disarray and disenchantment." He writes, "Growth requires the expansion of both physical buildings and horizons to make room for new models of truth and community." (40)
Some reviews misunderstand the author's goal  Sep 19, 2007
The author is at pains early in the book to differentiate between "Global Chrisianity" (i.e. Christianity imposed on cultures by European colonial efforts (e.g. South America)) and "World Christianity" (aras where Christianity develops more as a result of genuine faith experience than colonization efforts). Understanding this distinction, it is reasonable that the majority of the book focuses on Africa. On the other hand, this is not the only locus for World Christianity and, to my knowledge, the author, having come from Gambia, fails to acknowledge his bias towards Africa.

The discussion itself is worthwhile with solid points throughout. The "interview format", however, detracts from the presentation of the information. The author has a very 'academic" writing style, which better lends itself to continuous reading rather than the "stop and go" approach of an interview. One can scarcely imagine the "answers" he provides being adequate for an interview with someone such as Larry King or Terry Gross. This vehicle costs the book a great deal for those engaged in academic study as the "jerkiness" of the format makes it difficult to get into a reading rhythm. While perhaps handy for bathroom reading (i.e. pick it up and read 2-3 questions and answers) it is poorly suited to reading many pages in one sitting.

This is the type of book that you struggle through the first time (because of the interview style) but reference with some frequency afterwards (oddly enough, because of the quick, succinct presentation of information provided by the interview style).

I give it 4 stars for the treatment of the subject matter and 2 for the presentation. Average = 3 stars. Worth the price, but no more...
This author needs an editor!  Mar 6, 2007
Is Christianity a white man's religion that should be rejected by native peoples? Is Christianity a tool of cultural oppression of the Third World by Western imperialists? Is Bible translation a subtle way to sway indigenous peoples into rejecting their own culture? The author says that the answer to these questions is "no". Unfortunately, it took considerable effort from me to come to those conclusions from this text.

I eagerly anticipated reading this book but I am sad to say that it was a complete disappointment. I would not recommend it because the author's premises were consistently obscure and poorly stated. It appears to be written for academics by an academic all of whom might appreciate writing that is abstruse but it just frustrated me. My initial clue that this might be a difficult read was when I saw that there was only the introduction and two chapters in the 130 pages of the book.

The question and answer format did not help either. I felt like I had come in late to a conversation between two people who knew each other very well; so well that one could finish the other's sentences. Unfortunately, I did not know either of them so while the two in the conversation knew what the other was saying, I, as the reader, felt completely left out of the discussion.

A good editor would have anticipated the questions that a reader would ask and would have forced the author to go back and answer them. The topic is important and it deserved better than the Eerdmann's editors gave it.
yale theologian's global purview  Jan 18, 2007
Employing a question and answer rhetorical device, Lamin Sanneh, a native of Gambia who teaches at Yale Divinity School, creates an imaginary dialogue between a representative of the secular, post-Christian West, and himself, an advocate for and scholar of what he calls post-Western Christianity. "World" Christianity, as he understands it, must be distinguished from "Global Christianity." The latter is really just a version of European Christendom, the sad "cultural captivity of faith" no matter how exotic its location. World Christianity, on the other hand, as it has emerged with explosive force in the last several decades, is made up of previously non-Christian societies and cultures who have accepted and adopted the Gospel in and through their own unique idioms. Thus, Sanneh prefers to speak of indigenous cultures discovering Christianity rather than of Christianity (read: the post-Christian West) discovering indigenous societies. For the most part, this resurgence of World Christianity has proceeded since the post-colonial period began, and "without Western organizational structures, including academic recognition, and ...amidst widespread political instability and the collapse of public institutions" (p. 3). In the last third of the book he examines the revolutionary impact of Bible translations in these indigenous movements. Christianity, in fact, "seems unique in being the only world religion that is transmitted without the language or originating culture of its founder" (p. 98). Along the way, he explores ways in which the post-Christian West, so long accustomed to understanding itself as the spiritual creditor to the entire world, might now benefit and learn from World Christianity as its debtor (pp. 57, 74). Except for a few brief remarks about China, Sanneh focuses on his native Africa.

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